Indonesian Elections: Religious leaders pledge neutrality
Here is an AP report from Jakarta about the forthcoming elections in
Indonesia. Note the remarkable contrast between the imams of Iran and those
Religious leaders pledge neutrality in Indonesian elections
The Star, Malaysia
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Islamic and Christian leaders have vowed not to
take sides in coming elections in Indonesia, home to the world's largest
Muslim population, after the nation's second largest Islamic group withdrew
its endorsement of a top lawmaker, a report said Thursday.
Religious groups previously have supported political parties during
elections in this secular country.
The leaders of prominent Muslim and Christian organisations stood together
at a public forum on Wednesday and vowed they would not be connected to any
politician and warned their followers that political parties may try to use
religion to win support, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported.
The 35-million-strong Muhammadiyah Muslim group told the forum it was
withdrawing its endorsement given earlier this month to the group's former
leader, Amien Rais, who is a presidential candidate in the elections. Rais
is currently speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's
highest legislative body.
Muhammadiyah Chairman Ahmad Syafii Maarif warned of political parties
courting voters with claims of links with religious groups or promises to
implement Islamic Shariah law.
"Those parties do not represent religious communities. They are just using
religious symbols to woo voters,'' he said. "They can promise to fight for
the adoption of Shariah or wear long robes to attract voters and these all
make me sick because they just do it for the sake of their own goals.''
Syafii spoke alongside leaders from Nahdlatul Ulama, the nation's largest
Muslim organisation with a claimed membership of 40 million, and the
Indonesian Communion of Churches, the nation's largest Protestant group.
Political observers have warned of potential clashes between supporters of
rival parties in the run-up to parliamentary elections on April 5 and a
presidential poll on July 5.
About 80 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim. The balance
is largely made up of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.
Leaders of religious groups could not immediately be reached for comment.
Also Wednesday, Indonesia's military reiterated its neutrality in the
elections. The armed forces is one of Indonesia's most powerful and
influential institutions with representatives in most urban and rural
communities. For decades, it has played an active role in politics and was
the muscle behind former dictator Suharto's 32 year reign.
"We will keep the same distance from all political parties,'' military
commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto was quoted as telling a parliamentary
However, analysts remain skeptical of the army's declarations of neutrality,
saying generals will likely maneuvre behind the scenes to prop-up President
Megawati Sukarnoputri, who helped them regain a political role and is
running for re-election in July.